BookMusings: (Re)Discovering Pagan Literature

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Book Review: Death Days


Title: Death Days

Publisher: NineStar Press

Author: Lia Cooper

Pages: 257pp

Price: $5.99 (ebook)

Nicholas Littman is a necromancer. In a world in which the paranormal is well hidden -- and most magical practitioners fall on the elemental, life-affirming end of the spectrum -- his talent has left him isolated, spending his days teaching a few classes at the local university and his nights perfecting his abilities. Or, trying to do so, anyway. His last experiment left his magical laboratory a mess, his statue of Asclepius a pile of pebbles, and his supply of reanimated cadavers at zero. On top of that, the Order of the Green Book is pressuring him to assume his hereditary position on the council; his estranged non-magical sister is on his case to keep an even lower profile, lest his grave robbing threaten her political career; the Night Women have come with a dire warning about "wolves at his door"; and his teaching assistant Josiah -- whom he had hoped to make his apprentice, or more -- is showing no interest in or talent for real magic.

Oh, and did I mention the monster in the woods?

And the ominous crack in creation that has appeared in his basement?

I am perpetually hunting for new urban fantasy and paranormal romance series which treat magic, the occult, and paganism (even small-p paganism) respectfully. So I am always happy when I find one that does, for the most part, get it right.

I would not classify Death Days as a capital-P Pagan book. The focus is on the magic and there is little reference to religion. There is Nicholas' statue of Asclepius and there is an off-hand reference to a statue of Re somewhere in his family history; additionally, he spends a good chunk of his free time hunting and pecking through auction sites in search of magical ancient artifacts, many of which seem to be polytheist relics. And while Nicholas does have an unfortunate run-in with a demon, it is simply presented as a malevolent entity, not a being tied to a specific cosmology.

Additionally, in Death Days, the world of the paranormal is hidden deep in the shadows. Magic workers -- whether shaman, warlock, witch, druid, vampire, or werewolf -- are so afraid of discovery by mundanes that they barely even speak among themselves. When Nicholas reaches out to a former student for assistance (a woman whom he knows works real magic) he can barely bring himself to say the word "werewolf" out loud; he has to work up to it. The fear experienced by the entire magical community is not only palpable, but almost paralyzing. I can see this becoming a serious issue in future volumes; what if a particularly powerful and terrible threat appears, and the magical community can't come together to stop it?

Nicholas himself is an appealing, if prickly, character. He is an academic and a necromancer; he loves books and research and magical theory and experimentation. While his magical talent is natural, his workings require extensive preparation and training. He forces himself to teach because otherwise he knows that he would become a complete hermit. He also knows that the magical community has little use for someone like him; the Order of the Green Book wants him on the council because a Littman centuries ago helped found the Order and magically bound his descendants to it; the Order can't function properly without him. They don't want him, but they need him, and he (understandably) resents that. As a result, when things go from moderately bad to incredibly bad, Nicholas has few magical allies or friends to call upon, little knowledge of the factions in his area, and no spells that he can just whip out like a badass battle mage.

He is over his head, and he knows it.

But the one person he does care about desperately needs his help. And so he pushes on.

Overall, I very much enjoyed Death Days. The characters are compelling, the magic is interesting, and the world-building is strong (with hints of a much larger magical community yet to be seen). This first volume falls pretty firmly in the urban fantasy camp; there are hints of romance, but nothing serious develops until very nearly the end of the book. I have the feeling that relationship will continue to evolve as the series progresses, and the romance will become more important.

Recommended to fans of KJ Charles' Spectred Isle, Jordan L Hawk's Hexworld series, and Rhys Ford's Black Dog Blues.



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Rebecca Buchanan is the editor of the Pagan literary ezine Eternal Haunted Summer. She is also the editor-in-chief of Bibliotheca Alexandrina. She thinks it is incredibly unfair that she must work for a living rather than being able to read all day. In her next life, she would like to be a library cat.


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